Journey to Fort Sill
Just before midnight on Saturday 17 January 1959 in Philadelphia I boarded an American Airlines DC-6B. My destination was Lawton, Oklahoma, and The United States Army Artillery and Missile School (USAAMS), Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the Home of Army Artillery. The DC-6 was making a cross country New York to California overnight milk run. The flight made additional stops in Washington, D.C. and Memphis, Tennessee before reaching Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth, Texas late Sunday morning.
This was my first ever time on an airplane. The passengers were almost exclusively soldiers. It was an interesting mix. There were new soldiers fresh out of Fort Dix basic training heading for our advanced training assignments. And, there were the now ex-soldiers heading for home who had just been separated from active duty earlier in the evening at Fort Hamilton, New York, after disembarking at the Brooklyn Army Terminal off a troopship that had arrived earlier in the day from Bremerhaven, Germany.
We arrived in Fort Worth around 1100 hours CST Sunday. After a two hour layover, we boarded a Central Airlines DC-3 for Lawton, Oklahoma. I hold vivid memories of the North Texas and Southwest Oklahoma landscape of 50+ years ago that I was flying over, notably seeing the Red River valley and the vast seemingly endless open spaces from the air. I also vividly recall the aviation fuel oozing out around the top rivets of the starboard wing structure! After a stopover at Duncan, Oklahoma - coming in to the runway over an oil refinery too close for comfort - we finally made it to Lawton around 1600 hours. That was an 18 hour journey I shall never forget.
My group of five took a taxi from the Lawton airport to Fort Sill. I told the driver my destination was 2nd Enlisted Student Battery for Redstone training. But, hearing Redstone, he dropped us off at what I later learned was the 209th Artillery Group (Redstone) headquarters. The NCO on duty sorted it out for us, and had a driver take each of us to our various destinations. After finally reporting in to 2nd Enlisted Student Battery and being taken to the mess hall for evening chow, I was escorted to a small 3rd floor room typically used to house two NCO's but now crammed with six Redstone and Corporal Missile students. This became my home for the next 23 weeks.
2nd Enlisted Student Battery was a large three story masonry building located on Randolph Road, between Post Headquarters and Fort Sill Boulevard. There were several such imposing buildings along that stretch of Randolph Road. 1st Officers Student Battery, which housed officers attending USAAMS schools was located immediately to the west of 2nd Enlisted Student Battery. Staff & Faculty Battery of the USAAMS was located immediately to the east of 2nd Enlisted Student Battery.
The street had a boulevard look to it: tree-lined, with wide sidewalks. There was a spacious open area just across the street. Part was used as Parade Grounds, and in one corner there was a baseball diamond with a covered grandstand. It was picturesque, certainly so when compared to my Fort Dix Basic Training area.
2nd Enlisted Student Battery was literally bursting at the seams with students in those days. The facility housed enlisted students attending the numerous USAAMS training courses, which included Redstone, Corporal, Honest John, Little John, and various conventional artillery in the inventory. People had been arriving for the next Redstone classes since the previous week. Two of my new roommates - and, classmates as it turned out - Dennis Fife and Wells L. Hoskins (Lamar Hoskins, as he preferred to be called) from Idaho, had arrived on Saturday from Basic Training at Fort Carson, Colorado. Dennis and Lamar had enlisted together for Redstone training at the Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. Both were as surprised as I was at being sent to Fort Sill.
I met Master Sergeant E-7 Pawelski, from, as I recall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who as the ranking EM was designated Team Leader of our group of Redstone students. M/Sgt. Pawelski turned out to be a good NCO, whose only demand of us was that we strictly adhere to the Class A uniform dress code while attending classes. I remember a big concern of his at the time was his fear that under the new enlisted rank system being phased in - the addition of E-8 and E-9 - he would lose a stripe, and become a Sergeant First Class (SFC) if he remained an E-7. He was afraid that people back home wouldn't understand, and think that he had been demoted.
On my first Saturday in 2nd Enlisted I met Sgt. E-5 Andrew Montgomery, who was enrolled in REMMC 2-59 (REMMC is explained in the following section). Andy turned out to be quite a character, and turned into a good Army buddy. That Saturday he was running a major craps game. By evening he had accumulated quite a wad of cash. He wanted to lock the money up for safe keeping, so he asked the NCO on duty in the orderly room to put the money in the office safe until Monday morning, when, presumably, he could deposit it in a bank. The duty Sgt was at first skeptical, dubious about the source of the money, and then reluctant to get involved with such an activity. He finally relented, and Andy's major winnings were safely secured for the remainder of the weekend. I would meet up with Andy Montgomery again, in Germany, some 19 months later.
REMMC or RMMMC?
Monday morning at the Electronics Headquarters building located behind 2nd Enlisted, I was issued a set of textbooks. We were then bussed to a complex of one story wood structure classrooms, located on the west side of the base, and adjacent to the Artillery OCS. The location also afforded a good view of Mt. Scott off in the distance to the northwest. A Chief Warrant Officer-2 introduced himself as our instructor. He outlined the course to us. Something didn't sound quite right to me, but I kept quiet about it for the day. We spent a part of the day taking a set of Army aptitude tests.
The first thing Tuesday morning the CWO called me aside and told me I was in the wrong Redstone Course. I was supposed to be in a RMMMC but apparently someone in Fort Dix had gotten my orders wrong and assigned me to the Redstone Electronic Materiel Maintenance Course, or REMMC (phonetically pronounced "Rem C") by mistake. In a nutshell, as opposed to the 8 week long RMMMC which covered the mechanical aspects of the Redstone Missile, REMMC was 23 weeks in length and covered the inertial guidance system, electrical power and control, and pneumatics aspects of the missile.
Immediately sizing up the benefits of attending school for 23 rather than 8 weeks, I made an instant, and for me, probably life altering decision. I requested to be allowed to stay with REMMC. Beyond that, as described to us, REMMC sounded like it would be a good challenge. Based on the results of the general aptitude tests I took Monday, the CWO was in agreement, provided I passed a set of electrical/electronic aptitute tests that he could administer that evening at the Electronics HQ building.
First however, in classic Army tradition I was driven back to Electronics HQ where I had to return my REMMC books and draw a set of RMMMC books. I spent the remainder of the day at 2nd Enlisted Student Battery. After evening chow I walked over to the Electronics HQ Building, where commencing at 1900 hours and lasting for the next two hours or so I took the electrical/electronics aptitude tests. Thanks to my high school Physics class, the tests were a breeze, and I passed them with flying colors. The CWO immediately wrote the authorization for me to re-draw my REMMC textbooks the first thing Wednesday morning. So, at 0800 hours I reversed the previous day's process by turning in the set of RMMMC books and signing out a set of REMMC books. Finally, by 1000 hours Wednesday 21 January I rejoined REMMC Number 2A-59.
So it was REMMC and not RMMMC for me.
For 23 weeks, going to school was my full-time Army job. I was in school 8 hours a day, 0800 to 1200 and 1300 to 1700, five days a week. There were a few Saturday morning sessions, usually of the demonstration nature. There were weekly quizzes and regular tests on the material covered in class. I was expected to put in study time at night. I had no other duties, or Army distractions. For example, I did not pull KP or Guard duty.
One of the most interesting Saturday morning demonstration sessions put on for USAAMS enlisted men and officers took place Armed Forces Day of May 1959. The demonstration was a parade of all the currently deployed Army artillery pieces, missiles, and rockets. The demonstration also covered the theme of close air support of Army troops by the US Air Force. The narrator also stressed the concept of troops on the ground being vulnerable to enemy air action in the absence of US Air Force support. As if to further emphasize that point, with that, the assembled crowd in the grandstand was hit by the ear piercing noise of an unannounced and undetected high speed ground level fly-by of the Air Forces's latest aircraft, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, dubbed "the missile with a man in it". Directly in front of the reviewing stand, the F-104 pilot put his aircraft into a near-vertical high speed climb. His altitude callouts were broadcast over the reviewing stand loud speakers. Over the ensuing 3 or 4 minutes we heard him call out in rapid succession: 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 - and so on - to 80,000, and finally 90,000 ft altitude. In my 34 year aerospace career I have been witness to numerous spectacular aerial demonstrations of high performance jet aircraft. To this day, however, that F-104 demonstration I witnessed over 45 years ago remains for me "one for the ages".
REMMC was divided into two parts about equal in length. The first part was conducted jointly with Corporal Missile guidance system students. I recall being told at the time that the first portion of REMMC was actually piggy-backed onto the existing Corporal Missile guidance course. The material covered certainly seemed more suited to the Corporal Missile guidance system, e.g., electronic circuits and troubleshooting in the age of vacuum tube technology. And, of the some 36 in the classroom, about two-thirds were Corporal students.
Since REMMC 2A-59 was only the third such course conducted at Fort Sill, it seems logical that the Army, in a rush to train personnel to support the Redstone missile in the field, would have taken short cuts to accelerate such training. One such way would have been to combine the up-front training with an established program. In fact the REMMC commencing in February1958 was split between Fort Sill and the Redstone Arsenal, with Phase 1 electronic training conducted at Fort Sill and Phase 2 missile training conducted at Huntsville.
The need for trained manpower was there. The first Redstone outfit, the 40th Artillery Group had been deployed to Germany less than a year earlier (June 1958). And, the second and third outfits, 46th Artillery Group and 209th Artillery Group had only recently been constituted at Fort Sill, with the 46th Group scheduled for deployment to Germany in April 1959. Initially, the Army planned on fielding 4 Redstone Groups with 3 of them deployed to Europe. However, the decision was made in this time frame to treat the Redstone as an interim weapons system until the deployment of the Pershing missile could be accomplished in the early to mid 1960's, and the number of Redstone Groups was therefore held at 3.
Whatever the case or whatever the reasons for the first part setup, the second part of REMMC concentrated on the Redstone Missile, and was comprised of both classroom sessions and missile hands-on training. The purpose of REMMC was two-fold: first, to train people to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair the Redstone Missile inertial guidance system, the missile electrical power and distribution systems, and the related ground support equipment; and, second to preflight the guidance system and insert the fire mission data for launch.
Training, Part 1
Part 1 initially was all classroom lectures, starting out with the basics - Ohm's Law E=IR stuff - which progressed to electrical circuits and on to electronics, vacuum tube theory and operation, and so forth. About midway we transitioned to the lab where we put our classroom instruction to the test by building and testing circuits, usually on component plug-in boards.
We had two officers from the West German Army in the class, Captain (later promoted to Major) Mittelstat (sp?) and Lieutenant Kiefer. Both were there for the Corporal missile. The two were direct opposites. The Captain was the quintessential stern "old school" German officer. Lt. Kiefer was the new generation "free spirit". His command of English was much better, and he would constantly joke around with us. The Captain, speaking in German, repeatedly reprimanded Lt. Kiefer for fraternizing with the American enlisted men, and for his general lack of decorum. We would all discretely chuckle over these encounters. I crossed paths with Lt. Kiefer again, in Germany 19 months later.
Another Corporal student I met and became friends with was Doyle Montgomery from California. Doyle eventually went on to a Corporal unit in Germany, and I lost track of him. Our paths crossed again nine years later, on Long Island. In 1968 I was attending engineering college at the The State University of New York Stony Brook. Doyle had come back east for his masters degree in economics at Stony Brook. We literally ran into each other one day in a student lounge area.
At the end of the joint classroom/lab portion, Redstone and Corporal students went their separate ways. I believe that the Corporal guidance course was at least 30 to 32 weeks in length overall.
In retrospect, one shortcoming of the REMMC training program at the time was the Army's failure - or inability - to properly screen many people as potential students for REMMC. M/Sgt. Pawelski complained about it at the time. His gripe was that the Army was placing unqualified Recruit E-1's (Pvt. E-2's actually) right out of Basic Training into a highly technical, rigorous, demanding course, while qualified re-enlistees who applied for the course were being passed by. His point was reinforced by the fact that we had three or four people fresh out of Basic Training drop out of REMMC 2A-59 in the first two weeks.
However, M/Sgt. Pawelski's position on this was weakened by the fact that he himself was on the verge of being dropped from the course. He was having a very difficult time with the electronics instruction. Dennis Fife teamed up with M/Sgt. Pawelski as his lab partner for the lab portion of the course; and, it was only through Dennis's constant tutoring that M/Sgt. Pawelski was able to make enough progress to continue on.
The reality at the time was, however, that in a starting class of around twelve students, only five were there by choice, one (me) was there by mistake, and the remainder were there by chance or Army whim. Dennis Fife has confirmed that there were only six of us who completed the 23 weeks: two NCO's, M/Sgt. Pawelski and SFC Gene Dollarhide; and four enlisted men, Dennis Fife, Lamar Hoskins, myself, and one other.
Training, Part 2
Part 2 of REMMC training was held in a large double-ended hangar complex, hangar number 5, at the Fort Sill Army Airfield. Post Road, running basically northwest to southeast, is the street name on the current Fort Sill map, but I don't recall that name. The northwest end of hangar number 5 housed Army helicopters. The Redstone School occupied the sealed off southeast portion. The tarmac area the Redstone School used was separated from the helicopter operations by a chain link fence and concertina wire. There was plenty of room outside on the tarmac for actual missile operations, and the hangar bay was large enough to accomodate a fully assembled Redstone trainer missile in the horizontal position, plus all ancillary equipment. The site had classrooms, a maintenance and repair shop, equipment storage bays, and offices for the Redstone Division of the Department of Materiel, USAAMS. The school had a full complement of the Redstone handling equipment and vehicles found in the Redstone Artillery Groups. Lt. Colonel George H. Wenzel was the Redstone Division Commanding Officer.
Somebody tried to explain the REMMC training schedule to me at the time. This is what I recall. Since the Redstone Missile was a Field Artillery weapon, once the initial R&D work and first time training of 40th Artillery Group was accomplished at Redstone Arsenal, the USAAMS then took over the training of people to staff the two new 46th and 209th Groups, plus replacements for 40th Artilley Group. The Army planned to conduct up to four REMMC's per year in fiscal year (FY) 1959 (1 July 1958 to 30 June 1959) and FY 1960 (1 July 1959 to 30 June 1960).
The first such course at Fort Sill in FY 59, REMMC 1-58, started in late 1958. This was immediately followed by REMMC 2-59. And, because there was still a shortage of trained people, the Army added Class 2A-59 right on the heels of 2-59. Since REMMC 2A-59 was only a few weeks behind REMMC 2-59, which had started the first of Januuary, for a time we were in Part 2 training concurrently, so things were a little tight at the Redstone School during this overlap period.
In Part 2 we were taught everything there is to know about the operation, checkout, and maintenance of the Redstone Missile Inertial Guidance System, its related onboard systems, and its related ground support equipment. We were taught how to read, and troubleshoot with, the myriad of electrical schematics for the missile. We learned the purpose and operation of every component, soup to nuts.
We were trained to perform preflight checks and the insertion of fire mission parameters into the guidance system from the Fire Control & Test Truck (FC&TT) checkout consoles. The FC&TT, a 6 x 6, 2&1/2 ton shop van, the "nerve center" of a Redstone field launch operation, was literally a go anywhere missile blockhouse on wheels. The FC&TT was later redesignated as the Truck-Mounted Guided Missile Programer-Test Station AN/MSM-38, but since I knew it as the FC&TT, that is how I shall refer to it in this document.
In addition to all aspects of the inertial guidance system, REMMC students were taught all related ancillary tasks. We learned how to properly install the missile's 4 carbon jet vanes used in the rocket exhaust stream, and the 4 movable rudders in the air stream, which were used to steer the missile during boost phase powered flight. We were taught the operation of the pneumatic system used to steer the missile. A supply of high pressure air, for the jet nozzles used to steer the missile once it was effectively above the earth's atmosphere, was carried in the upper body skirt section. We were taught diesel electrical generator operation and power distribution, and 28 volt d-c battery handling, installation and maintenance.
The Redstone Trainer System in Detail
The Redstone School was assigned two Redstone trainer missile systems. One trainer missile system was primarily employed to teach RMMMC students all aspects of Redstone missile assembly and handling. A second trainer missile, fully assembled in the horizontal position inside the hangar, was primarily used to train REMMC students.
A trainer missile looked, sounded, and felt like the real tactical missile. The components of the trainer missile were identical in size and shape to those of the tactical missile, and were located as much as possible in the same positions of tactical missile components. All cables, plugs, and electrical connections were numbered the same as the tactical missile. The trainer missile could be separated into three units and transported exactly as the tactical missile.
There were, however, some differences between a trainer missile and a tactical missile. The center of gravity positions of each were the same, but the trainer missile weight was about one-third that of the tactical missile weight. Tactical missile components were installed and used in the trainer missile where needed; otherwise, functional dummy components which emitted realistic sounds during checkout were installed. The trainer missile skin and framework was made of aluminum and was riveted instead of welded. The high pressure air systems of the two were almost identical. However, the trainer missile had aluminum air lines in lieu of the tactical missile's steel air lines, with the trainer missile air system operating with a pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi) instead of the tactical missile's air system pressure of 3,000 psi.
Propellant loading training was conducted on a trainer missile by using a few procedures unique to it. Since there was no alcohol fuel tank on the trainer missile, alcohol fueling training was accomplished by utilizing a tee-coupling at the missile's alcohol fill valve with a return line carrying the fuel pumped from the alcohol trailer back into the trailer. The trainer missile thrust unit had a small belt-type liquid oxygen (LOX) tank with a 250 gallon capacity. The trainer missile had, however, all necessary LOX connections to allow pre-cooling, LOX loading, and LOX replenishment. And, when the LOX tank was filled with LOX, the unique and distinguishing frost band around the circumference of the the thrust unit was created and displayed. The trainer missile also had a hydrogen peroxide tank. However, in lieu of using hydrogen peroxide, de-mineralized water - since ordinary water would contaminate the tactical ground equipment - was loaded into the tank.
Basically, RMMMC students learned how to assemble, raise, service and fuel a tactical missile by using the trainer missile. REMMC students learned how to maintain the guidance system, and prepare a missile for flight using the trainer system. The Redstone trainer provided realistic training of future Redstone Missile Firing Battery personnel, and it afforded the instructors a means of determining their proficiency. It did not require the use of a tactical missile. The five major components which comprised the trainer system: trainer missile, trainer test station (analyzer van), two junction boxes, a dummy load box, and a dummy relay box were used in conjunction with the Redstone checkout equipment. And, all of the Redstone tactical missile handling, servicing, and launch equipment could be used with the training missile.
In an almost "too good to be true" classic Army story at the time, we were told by our Redstone School instructors that the trainer missile system was initially designated by the Army at Redstone Arsenal as the "Field Artillery Redstone Trainer", but when the Commanding General realized the acronym for that, he ordered the name to be changed to "Firing Unit Proficiency Analyzer". So, with the stroke of a pen "FART" became "FUPA". Of course, all of us who served in that era will never forget the quintessential Army acronym of that time, and of all time - "FUBAR".
In exterior appearance the analyzer van was a clone of the FC&TT. The van, in conjunction with the two junction boxes, intercepted signals from the FC&TT normally sent to the tactical missile, and simulated the tactical missile's return responses back to the FC&TT. To the trainees in the FC&TT, there was no discernable differences. Instructors in the analyzer van could also introduce traceable malfunctions for the students to troubleshoot. A complete record of the operations performed by students in the FC&TT was furnished by the use of an automatic printer and an analog recorder in the analyzer van. The printer recorded the use of all controls by students and the elapsed time for operations, as well as out-of sequence use of such controls. The analog recorder permitted the recording of all voice communications that occurred during a training mission. In this manner, a training session could be immediately critiqued, with corrective actions taken immediately. The dummy load box provided the same electrical responses as the training missile in missile checkout. This allowed the second training missile to be freed up at times for RMMMC training (missile handling, fueling, etc.), while REMMC trainees could conduct FC&TT operations using the dummy load box.
The FC&TT held 4 side by side checkout console stations to test and preflight the inertial guidance system. These included the lateral computer console, range computer console, pitch programming console, pneumatic control panel, and a warhead arming and selection console which doubled as the test conductor's station. The four console operators wore headsets to communicate among themselves and with personnel outside the van. The test conductor executed the checkout operation from a master test procedure. Each console operator had a copy of the overall checkout manual in front of him. As test steps were called out by the test conductor, each console operator would execute his appropriate action, and indicate and respond to the test conductor whether or not the action had been successfully carried out, before the test conductor proceeded to the next test step. In this manner, the inertial guidance system was methodically checked out and made ready for flight.
When instructors in the analyzer van inserted simulated missile malfunctions into the test countdown procedure, the test would be halted at that point, and troubleshooting measures would commence to isolate the malfunction. A complete set of all Redstone systems and power electrical schematics was carried in the FC&TT. Troubleshooting techniques usually started by ensuring the test steps had been carried out in the proper sequence. After that, point to point electrical circuit checks and power checks could be performed in an attempt to narrow down and isolate the malfunction. REMMC students were trained to troubleshoot to the "black box" level. For example, if the problem was determined to be a faulty lateral computer, the computer would be replaced, and the faulty unit turned over to the Ordnance Company. In the Redstone Groups, it was the attached Ordnance Company's responsibility to perform internal repairs to components.
Training - summation - and post script
On Friday 26 June 1959 I received my Certificate Of Proficiency from the USAAMS, certifying that I had successfully completed the Redstone Electronic Materiel Maintenance Course Number 2A-59. REMMC graduates carried the Redstone Inertial Guidance System Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code of 218.1 for enlisted technicians and 218.6 for NCO supervisors. Graduates were deemed fully qualified to perform their duties in the Firing Sections of the Firing Batteries attached to the Redstone Missile Groups.
As a final act before leaving REMMC, M/Sgt. Pawelski submitted the names of all the E-2's in the class, who were now reaching 8 months service time, for promotion to PFC E-3 to the 2nd Enlisted Student Battery CO. As a result, Dennis Fife and Lamar Hoskins received their stripes. Unfortunately, I missed it by one day. M/Sgt. Pawelski was told that I would not be eligible for promotion to E-3 until 27 June, and since on that date I was technically transferred to my post-school assignment, 2nd Enlisted Student Battery could not promote me.
M/Sgt. Pawelski and Lamar Hoskins were assigned to the 209th Artillery Group, the Redstone Group stationed at Fort Sill. SFC Gene Dollarhide, Dennis Fife and I were assigned to Staff & Faculty Battery, USAAMS, with our work assignments at the Redstone School.To the best of my recollection, no one in REMMC 2A-59 received orders at that time to report to either 40th Artillery Group or 46th Artillery Group in Germany. Within a year, however, Dennis Fife was reassigned to Battery B of the 40th Artillery Group, Wackernheim, Germany and SFC Dollarhide was reassigned to Battery A of the 46th Artillery Group in Neckarsulm, Germany. Around 1200 on Saturday 27 June 1959, Dennis Fife and I walked the 100 yards or so east to report in to our new home, Staff & Faculty Battery.